After Kristallnacht, 10 November 1938, Willy went to work as usual in Bonn in Germany – the city where he had been born in 1921. When he arrived at the factory the Gestapo were waiting for him and arrested him. He was sent to prison in Cologne and from there transported to Dachau concentration camp where he spent 4 horrific months. Efforts to secure his release finally succeeded and he came out of Dachau on condition that he left Germany within a month on a visa for England.
Willy arrived safely in England in May 1939 but at the outbreak of war in September 1939 became an enemy alien. At the end of June 1940 he was arrested and interned along with thousands of other former German refugees. A few days later he was transported to Australia on the infamous troopship Dunera. Conditions for the 9 week journey was likened to a “floating concentration camp”.
Willy arrived safely in England and worked on the land and in the city of London. At the outbreak of war in September 1939 he became an “enemy alien” and subject to various restrictions by the British Government. In June 1940 he was arrested and interned, along with thousands of other former German refugees. In July 1940 he was transported to Australia on the infamous troopship Dunera with 2,000 other Jewish internees and 500 Nazi POWs. Conditions for the 9 week journey were likened to a “floating concentration camp”.
“I wanted to give something back to Britain for saving my life.”
“But for all the risks, I never once regretted being part of the biggest invasion force ever to land in the Normandy beaches in June 1944 even though it brought personal losses.” – Willy Field
After a year in Australia, Willy returned to enlist in the British Army. He served in the Pioneer Corps until in 1943 he was able to transfer to a fighting regiment. He landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day+1 as a tank driver in the Royal Armoured Corps. He fought for 11 months on the frontline, through France, Belgium and Holland, and finally into the invasion of Germany. He was the sole survivor when his tank was hit by a German 88mm gun in Holland. The loss of his comrades on his tank still affects him sixty-five years later.
Of his family, only his twin sister Thea survived the Holocaust. The rest of the family perished. Their parents were transported on a train by the Nazis to Minsk in 1942 and murdered. Thea also came to England and served in the British forces in the ATS.
The book was launched on 14 September 2009 at the Arsenal Emirates Stadium to honour Willy’s life-long support of the team and membership since 1939: